Armed with some knowledge taught to them by their indigenous relatives and holding incredible faith in each other, four siblings from Colombia did something most people, even the strongest and elite-trained members of the military, could not do. They survived for 40 days in the Amazon after a harrowing plane crash that killed everyone else on board.
Authorities found Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, age 13, Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9, Tien Ranoque Mucutuy, 4, and Cristin Ranoque Mucutuy, 11 months, in the Colombian jungle.
NBC News writes, “The children were traveling with their mother from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to the town of San José del Guaviare when the single-engine Cessna plane crashed early May 1, nose-diving into dense undergrowth.
Rescuers found the bodies of all three adults on board when the crash site was discovered 16 days later — but not the children.
Instead, rescuers found a baby bottle, an abandoned tiny pair of shoes and some footprints leading away from the wreckage.
The children’s maternal grandfather, Narciso Mucutuy, said in a video the Colombian Defense Ministry released Monday that the oldest sibling, Lesly, pulled the youngest, Cristin, from the wreckage after having spotted her foot.
Manuel Ranoque, the father of the two youngest children, said at a news conference Sunday that Lesly, 13, told him her mother was alive for about four days after the crash and had told the children to leave her and look after themselves.
President Gustavo Petro celebrated the news, calling them an “example of survival” and predicted their saga “will remain in history.”
The children’s aunt, Damaris Mucutuy, told a radio station that “the children are fine” despite being found with signs of dehydration and several insect bites. She arrived at the hospital with other family members and also announced that the children were offered mental health services.
She also explained how the two eldest knew how to set up camp and which fruits they could eat: “When we played, we set up like little camps,” the children’s aunt, Damaris Mucutuy, told the Colombian news outlet Caracol TV.
Lesly “knew what fruits she can’t eat because there are many poisonous fruits in the forest. And she knew how to take care of a baby,” the aunt continued.
NPR reported that “an air force video showed a helicopter using lines to pull the youngsters up because it couldn’t land in the dense rainforest where they were found. The craft flew off in the fading light, the air force said it was going to San Jose del Guaviare, a small town on the edge of the jungle.
The military on Friday tweeted pictures showing a group of soldiers and volunteers posing with the children, who were wrapped in thermal blankets. One of the soldiers held a bottle to the smallest child’s lips.
The crash happened in the early hours of May 1, when the Cessna single-engine propeller plane with six passengers and a pilot declared an emergency due to an engine failure.
The small aircraft fell off radar a short time later and a frantic search for survivors began. Two weeks after the crash, on May 16, a search team found the plane in a thick patch of the rainforest and recovered the bodies of the three adults on board, but the small children were nowhere to be found.”
Four Colombian children, aged 1 to 13 found alive in Amazon jungle more than 5 weeks after the plane they were travelling in crashed. #AmazonForest #rescued #Colombia #rescued #PlaneCrash #BreakingNews pic.twitter.com/ipmMI16Xfe
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) June 10, 2023
Reports say the four children survived for nearly six weeks by eating a flour bag.
“When the plane crashed, they took out [of the wreckage] a [bag of flour], and with that, they survived,” the children’s uncle, Fidencio Valencia, told reporters who were gathered outside the hospital Saturday.
The flour was from cassavas, a type of yucca that is commonly eaten in the region.
“After the [flour] ran out, they began to eat seeds” from plants they were familiar with, Valencia said.
According to The Associated Press, “The children were first found by one of the rescue dogs that soldiers took into the jungle.
Officials did not say how far the children were from the crash site when they were found. But the teams had been searching within a 4.5-kilometer (nearly 3-mile) radius from the site where the small plane nosedived into the forest floor.
As the search progressed, soldiers found small clues in the jungle that led them to believe the children were still living, including a pair of footprints, a baby bottle, diapers and pieces of fruit that looked like it had been bitten by humans.”